Thursday, May 20, 2010

Deanery Meeting and Our Lady of Fatima

Last Thursday I was at one of those deanery meetings we are all having in the diocese to discuss the problem of a rapidly diminishing number of priests for our parishes. I`m not a great fan of these events but felt duty-bound to go. This one was attended by the priests of the deanery and two lay people from each parish. It was decided to set up a committee to look at the way ahead and also to offer some formation in lay leadership. At this point one of the representatives suggested that for this committee `nothing should be ruled out` and we should discuss married priests and women priests. I had to respond saying that they have been ruled out and that the truth that only men can be ordained as priests is to be held definitively by all the faithful. Our chairman intervened to say that women priests have been ruled out `for now`. I suggested that this means that all the faith, for example the belief in the Incarnation, is provisional. However the moment passed and we got back to setting up a committee.

I wish we could consider inviting into the diocese some of the religious communities that don`t have a vocations problem. There are the Ecclesia Dei communities of course but an exclusive use of the EF would not, perhaps, help with plugging the gaps in the parishes although their presence would be a breath of fresh air. Apart from them there are the Franciscans of the Immaculate, Franciscans of the Renewal or the Community of St John. Any of these would be a good thing. Sometimes I think that Catholics are so used to the scenario of decline that that is their comfort zone and the idea that there might be groups who are flourishing is too painful an idea and too difficult to understand.

The same day the Pope was in Fatima. I saw this story on the BBC news website and mused on the difference in attitudes between this lady and many Catholics who find the idea of travelling an extra half mile to another church for Sunday Mass too hard.

Many travelled the last few hundred metres on their knees, as a sign of gratitude to the Virgin.

Maria, a 47-year-old florist, had walked about 220 km (135 miles) from her hometown of Castelo de Paiva.

"I have done this pilgrimage for 22 years because my daughter was at the doors of death and Our Lady granted me the miracle of saving her," she said.


1569 Rising said...


You don't need me to tell you that you have come up against one of the several "curses" of modern Catholicism - the Parish Busybody. I am assuming that the "representative" who wanted Married and Women Priests was a layperson, and that the Chairman was a Priest.

We all know that Women Priests are not, nor ever will be, sanctioned by the Church; Married Priests are different, a matter of discipline, not dogma.

Is it too optimistic to hope that the vast majority of the meeting supported you in your comments, or am I being incredibly naive? If the Chairman was a Priest, then we are in more trouble than I thought - his "ruled out for now" comment displays either lack of knowledge (unlikely), or an unwillingness to upset some of the meeting (cowardice?)

The shortage of priests will suit a certain element, and every parish has some, who would love to get their hands on the liturgy,to be "church", and to do their own thing. A certain element within the clergy would be more than willing to get rid of all their own parish responsibilities, so that they could swan around devising their own liturgical outrages safe in the knowledge that they are untouchable by any higher authority.

Father, most Catholics don't want to run things, they don't want to be priests, they want to be able to hear Mass and receive Communion. They would run a mile from the self appointed parish pseudo-priests.

As you say, "the moment passed", but only if priests like yourself had the courage to confront these busybodies head on.

1569 Rising said...

Oops - my last paragraph does not say what I intended it to say, put it down to blogger's mental slip.

What I meant to say was...

As you say,"the moment passed" and it will,but only if more priests had the courage, like yourself, to confront these busybodies head on.

Solomon said...

Here, once again, we have the modern solution to a problem - set up yet another committee. Obviously there are fewer priests now but are the clergy not looking at the problem through a mirror in which they can see only themselves?

In 1970 there were about 400 priests for 120,000 church-attending laity; or one priest per 300 practising Catholics. In 2008 there were 210 priests for only 40,000 practising Catholics; or one priest per 191 practising Catholics. Given these statistics it could be argued that the priest's life is easier, as his work load, in theory, is less than it was years ago. This is being too simplistic of course because it does not take into account the number of parishes that many priests now have to serve. I make the point just to show that there is often more than one side to a particular issue.

To return to the figures. In 1970 there were 120,000 people in this diocese attending Mass, now there are only 40,000. Since 1970 the number of priests has fallen about 47% while the number of practising laity has declined by 66%. I look forward to reading about deanery meetings that have been arranged to discuss why the laity have abandoned their Church in a much higher percentage than the priests.

Actually I sympathise with the priests whose workload, for some, has probably become intolerable. So, in order to ease their problems I suggest the following. It is quite obvious that the Church has become a talking shop, but those invited into this shop include everyone but the people in the pew. We are never asked our opinions. We have the bishop and his vicars general; the council of priests; a council of the laity; a diocesan pastoral council; pastoral area councils; parish councils; deanery meetings of priests and deanery meetings of lay associations. Need I go on? Our priests have little time for parish matters (such as taking the Blessed Sacrament to the sick where they could also hear confessions at the same time) because they are too busy dashing from one useless meeting to another.

May I make a serious proposal to lighten the load of our clergy. Why not close down all these time-wasting talking shops that are only important to those who sit on them? I would also include all these going-nowhere ecumenical activities because, at the moment, the only vital role in these parlous times is for the priest to look after his rapidly dwindling flock.

This proposal also applies to the bishops. How refreshing it would be if our bishops abandoned this self-important episcopal conference of bishops of England and Wales and devoted all their time to looking after their flocks in their own dioceses, using the authority given to them personally, and not to be excercised after a vote down in London as to which policy has to be adopted by everyone.

The bishop is the pope in his own diocese so, once he has given a lead, our priests can then dispense with their involvement in these parish/deanery/pastoral time-wasting exercises and return to being parish priests who serve their parishioners. I am sure that many would welcome this.

The point to this never-ending comment is that if the priests do not address the real problem of lapsations among the laity then NOTHING will improve. It stands to reason that if the numbers practising their faith reduces then the smaller pool there will be for vocations. THIS is the real problem. The rapidly reducing numbers of priests is a direct consequence of an even greater reduction in those attending Mass. NOTHING will improve until someone of courage shows real leadership and grasps this particular nettle.

I offer three points for discussion: the uninspiring liturgy we are presented with on a weekly basis which is decidely off-putting; the dreadful catechetical courses in our schools that no longer teach the faith so that our children have lapsed before they have left school; and the fact that many of our priests spend too much time away from their parishes attending non-productive meetings that are of no benefit to anyone.

Unknown said...

Father, couldn't you have just said to them, "Those not able to obey the teachings of the Catholic Church in all it's fullness, should leave the meeting now."?

That should shut them up pronto!

Sixupman said...

Father, my parish priest preaches those sentiments [and worse] weekly from the pulpit. He also openly cticises the Pope and The Magisterium. I travel yo another church, twelve miles away, by public transport. Though the E&W Bishops' Conference did issue a document stating I could attend my CofE [400yds] or Free Church [2 miles] to fulfill my Duties. I kid you not!

Joe said...

I wonder whether, in seeking for greater lay leadership in parishes (or, to express it in a more spiritual way, greater lay service), one might look to the new movements? The Focolare, for example, have a "new parishes" movement and a structure of youth groups that would work very well in parishes.

Volpius Leonius said...

Well this meeting may not achieve anything but it did put on display some of the reasons there is a shortage of priests.

A house divided cannot stand, unless the Lord build the house they labour in vain.